CHIC CHARNLEY was one of football’s most charismatic and colourful characters.
The gifted midfielder was also a massive Celtic fan and managed to play just ONE game for his favourites.
In another CQN EXCLUSIVE, author Alex Gordon, who co-wrote the Partick Thistle legend’s life story, ‘Seeing Red’, published in 2009, looks back at the dream that died.
Here is the concluding extract of a four-part series as the irrepressible Chic recalls the momentous occasion in his rollercoaster career.
TOMMY BURNS once tried to sign me for Kilmarnock when I came back from my stint in Sweden with Djurgaardens in 1993.
I had already had talks with John Lambie and chairman Jim Oliver at Partick Thistle just before Tommy came in. I was in a sweat. I really fancied playing for such a great sportsman and wonderful gentleman as Tommy at Rugby Park, but I had given me word to John and Jim I would accept their offer.
I couldn’t go back on that and, unfortunately, I had to tell Tommy. He fully understood and wished me the best of luck. How ironic is football, though? I signed on the Friday for Thistle and made me second debut for them the following day at Firhill against Killie, of all clubs.
I also managed to set up the winning goal. Unfortunately, it was for Killie! I passed the ball straight to their striker Danny Crainie and he whacked an effort into the back of our net.
I heard John Lambie mutter in that gravel voice of his, ‘We should have let the hopeless bastard sign for Kilmarnock!’
History now tells you I never did get the chance to play for Tommy Burns. A year after turning out at Old Trafford I might have been performing in the Scottish Cup Final in the hoops against Airdrie at Hampden in the showpiece game at the end of the season.
It’s a heart warming thought, but the reality of the situation was vastly different. Instead, I was out of work, freed by Partick Thistle. A sports reporter telephoned me to ask how I felt about the situation. I felt like crying.
I don’t think Liam Brady fancied me, either. Well, his missus certainly didn’t. John Lambie and Gerry Collins went to the World Cup Finals in America in 1994 and were sitting in the stand beside Brady and his wife watching one of the games.
Somehow the conversation came round to yours truly when Mrs Brady chimed in with, ‘Chic Charnley? He’s just a pub team player.’
John Lambie, quick as a flash, replied, ‘If your man had eleven pub team players like Chic Charnley he might still be Celtic manager today!’ Thanks, John.
Celtic, of course, remain special to me, the club I adored and supported as a boy. I’m still a season-ticket holder at Parkhead to this day. And, yes, I often wonder what might have happened if I had taken an attack of brains that May evening at Old Trafford back in 1994 and Lou Macari had spelled out everything clearly without any ambiguity.
I remember once saying to Billy McNeill, who was the Celtic boss at the time, ‘Why have you never signed me?’
Billy didn’t even blink as he replied, ‘Chic, son, I like to sleep at night!’
However, there was one evening when we were both at a function and Billy told me, ‘You know, Chic, my right hand tells me to sign you and the left hand says no.’
Unfortunately, the left hand won, but the Celtic manager, like everyone else, knew I would have done anything to sign for that club.
When Billy McNeill went through his quadruple heart bypass in the mid-nineties I sent him a message, saying, ‘You could have had that operation years ago if you had signed me.’
I’m sure he saw the funny side.
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